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Art in Milan: the “Artist’s shit” by Piero Manzoni

*Piero Manzoni in a picture by Giovanni Ricci

The collection of the Museo del Novecento features an artwork by artist Piero Manzoni: the “Artist’s shit“. It consists of a meat can with a label that says:

Artist’s shit. Contents 30 gr net. Freshly preserved, produced and tinned in May 1961″

The same statement appears on the can in Italian, German and French and describes what the content of the can is: 30 gr of Piero Manzoni’s excrements.

The whole artwork is composed by 90 of these cans which were exhibited for the first time at the Galleria Pescetto on the 12th of August 1961.

Through this artwork Piero Manzoni wanted to highlight how art became focused more on the artist rather than art itself. He gave to each of those cans a value, a price. It was the value of gold per gr at that time.

The Artist’s shit represents then a criticism to the contradictions of contemporary art. Every single object could be considered as a work of art. What seemed to be important was not the artist’s ability but the artist’s reputation.

Piero Manzoni’s artist’s shit became a sort of manifesto of his entire artistic life. If everything is art, regardless of its indisputable quality, even 30gr of shit could be art as long as it is signed by the artist.

The artist’s shit was follwed by two other impressive works: the artist’s breath ( a baloon inflated with Manzoni’s breath) and the artist’s blood.

Nowadays the actual value of this tiny objects has grown up to almost € 200.000 per piece. In 2015 during an auction at Sotheby’s the meat can number 54 was sold for 182.500 UK pounds.

If you happen to be in Milan you must go to the Museo del Novecento to see by yourself the artist’s shit number 80 which is exhibited in the permanent collection.

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